World Cup 2014: Five reasons why Manaus will be a nightmare for England
Roy Hodgson's men face Italy in the Amazonian city of Manaus on Saturday but could face a host of problems ahead of their vital Group D tie
England face Italy in the opener of their World Cup campaign on Saturday, but both sides will be wary of the conditions as the players prepare for the toughest 90 minutes of their careers.
It's almost two years since England were knocked out of Euro 2012 on penalties by the Italians and the opportunity for redemption arrives on Saturday when the two nations go head-to-head once again. But unlike in Ukraine and Poland, where conditions were similar to what they are used to, Saturday's crucial clash in Manaus will provide a much tougher test for the England team.
While Roy Hodgson was quick to dismiss any issues over playing in the host city, which is located in the Amazon rainforest, there are real concerns that the conditions among a range of factors could hamper their chances of qualifying from the group.
Arena de Amazonia
The stadium cost £173m to build and was finally opened in March this year. An all-seater arena with a capacity of 42,000, there are concerns about the current state of the site ahead of it's World Cup opener.
While the design of the stadium is impressive, it remains unfinished, despite being opened back in March with a 'trial' game between two local Brazilian sides. Power cables are reportedly still dangling from the walls of the changing rooms, a worrying sight considering the players will be occupying them. Safety also remains an issue, with security doors yet to be fitted, despite the death of a construction worker less than a year ago.
The pitch surface in Manaus just days before England v Italy
Given the climate of the Amazon rainforest and the location of the stadium, it would be difficult to maintain the pitch of the Arena de Amazonia to a high standard of quality. Few would expect it to be in an impeccable state, but images released of the pitch show that it is nowhere near being ready, despite the opener being just days away.
The playing surface is noticeably dry and sandy and particularly bare around one of the goals, with large yellowing areas of turf. The grass has also been damaged due to a reported overuse of fertiliser, meaning that it will be difficult for both sides to play their football on the ground, and this could harm the England team, who are used to playing on slick, well-watered pitches.
This will be the main concern for England. Even with the game being played at 6pm local time (11pm in the UK), temperatures are still expected to reach 31C, and with humidity known to rise to 100 per cent on occasions, the conditions will be unbearable for both sets of players. The players will have been given extra training to help acclimatise to the difficult conditions, but Roy Hodgson will need to use his substitutes wisely, with the players likely to be suffering from fatigue in the latter stages of the game.
Andrea Pirlo scores an audacious chipped penalty against Joe Hart in Euro 2012
Given that the only major changes in this Italy side are in the introduction of youngsters Marco Verratti and Ciro Immobile, England will know their opponents very well from their Euro 2012 defeat. But the situation is different now, and if Roy Hodgson was to be asked about who he would rather avoid facing as his opening opponent, Italy would be near the top of the list.
The likes of Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio keep the ball as good as any midfield does, and with England expected to be chasing possession for the majority of the game, their physical endurance will be put to the test. Additionally, they will be up against an in-form Mario Balotelli, who has scored seven goals in his last 14 appearances for Italy.
The England team travelled from their training camp in Miami directly to Rio de Janeiro - a nine-hour flight, and then on Thursday onto Manaus, based in the north of Brazil. Manaus is a further five-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro - the equivalent of London to the Egyptian capital of Cairo - and there is a risk of the players becoming jetlagged before playing their remaining fixtures in Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
Watch: Sam Wallace's report from Brazil
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